Thanksgiving can be the most depressing holiday for a celiac. It’s a whole day that centers around food. And no one wants to feel left out of the festivities. Part of being a celiac isn’t just the food, it’s the psychology of standing out in a crowd. I’ve found that I hate being pegged with the “special meal.” I want to fit in and eat the same food as everyone else. Thus, the most comforting thing for me is being invited to the home of someone who is aware of the simple steps that can be taken to make a gluten-free Thanksgiving that’s delicious for everyone.
It’s not necessarily about making gluten-free alternatives of “regular” food. It’s about finding regular food that happens to be gluten-free. You don’t need to spend a fortune at a specialty grocery store; most of these foods can be found at your local grocery store with just a little extra time taken to read labels.
Turkey. It seems like a no-brainer, but some frozen turkeys are injected with additives. Some of those injection juices contain gluten, so check the ingredients on a frozen turkey before you buy it.
Stuffing. If you absolutely must serve grandma’s traditional bread stuffing, bake it on the side rather than in the turkey. Gluten can be transferred from the stuffing to the meat. If you want to stuff the bird, use a rice stuffing or a pure cornbread stuffing. Check those packages of cornbread mix–some add regular flour. If you add sausage to the stuffing, make sure it’s a gluten-free sausage. Sometimes wheat is used as a filler. (MSG is okay, though. It’s not gluten; it’s a corn-based additive.)
Gravies and sauces. Use cornstarch instead of regular flour to thicken them.
Potatoes, squash, and other vegetables. They are inherently gluten-free. If you’re adding sour cream, cream cheese, or yogurt, though, check to make sure modified food starch is not on the ingredients list.
Cranberry sauce. Check the cans and tubs for wheat, modified food starch, or suspicious “natural flavoring.”
Rolls and bread. These can be tricky because most gluten-free bread just isn’t as good as the regular stuff. (Although in my family those terrible, tasteless snowflake rolls were always served. I’ve learned to just skip the rolls altogether.) Ask your celiac guest if he has a favorite brand of gluten-free bread or roll.
Dessert. Traditional pies take a little effort but I think it’s worth it. The celiac doesn’t want to be eating plain old gluten-free cookies while everyone else digs in to pumpkin pie. At Whole Foods and many specialty health food stores you can buy gluten-free frozen pies. Some health food stores also contract with local bakeries for fresh pies. Gluten-free pie crust mixes and recipes are readily available if you want to bake your own.
Appetizers and snacks. Corn chips are safe as well as vegetable crudités. Make sure dips are free of modified food starch and wheat. Have two cheese plates: one with gluten-free crackers and one with regular crackers. Many packages of peanuts and mixed nuts have warnings that say they are processed in a facility that also processes wheat. Check the package and let your celiac guest know this before she digs into the peanut bowl. Some brands of potato chips add wheat to the flavoring, so check those labels, too.
If the celiac or the parents of the celiac are making the bulk of the meal, I’m sure you’ll be making it gluten-free and none of the non-gluten-free guests will even notice. If you are inviting celiac guests and they ask if they can bring something, say “Yes, please!” Celiacs need to be assured that we have some control over our food.
I give thanks to my friends and family members who help make my life a little easier when it comes to sharing the holiday feasts.
Author Information: Stephanie S. Diamond